The oblique/IO alternation in Spanish dative constructions: a corpus

The oblique/IO alternation in Spanish dative constructions: a corpus study
Chiyo Nishida – University of Texas, Austin
1. Data/Background. Spanish possesses two alternating constructions with three-argument verbs,
PDCs and IODCs, where the non-theme argument may realize as a PP (1a) or a dative clitic-doubled
IO (1b), respectively. Recent studies of this alternation within the minimalist framework (Bleam 2001,
Cuervo 2003; inter alias) extend analyses proposed for the English counterpart to Spanish, claiming
that: a) the PP variant denotes “caused motion” and the IO variant “caused possession”; b) the
underlying post-verbal constituent order in each variant is DO PP for (1a) and IO DO in (1b), identical
to their English counterparts; and c) the DO IO order attested in (1b) is derived by DO movement.
2. Objective/Procedure. This paper provides a corpus-study of the Spanish dative alternation,
addressing two central empirical issues: A) Do PDCs and IODCs show any distinct distributional
patterns with regard to the sentence meaning and the referential property of the non theme argument?;
and B) what constituent order variations are possible between the two complements in PDCs and
IODCs, and what factors determine the choice? Using the Modern Spanish Reference Corpus (CREA),
943 tokens of the PDC and the IODC containing five dative verbs: dar „give‟ (450), entregar „hand
(in/out)‟ (153), ofrecer „offer‟, otorgar „give/grant (55), and enviar „send‟ (188) were collected and
analyzed. They all had both complements lexically realized and the verb inflected in 3rd person,
SG/PL, in the preterite tense; all IODC samples had a 3rd person, SG/PL, dative clitic, le or les. All
samples came from written sources (books, newspapers and journals) published in Mexico.
3. Findings. Regarding Issue A, we found PDCs occur more frequently than IODCs. Contrary to what
is commonly assumed, PDCs and IODCs are not in complementary distribution, with different verbs
showing varied behaviors. With entregar and ofrecer, for instance, both variants exclusively denote
caused possession (cf. Rappaport Hovav & Levin 2008); the major difference is that IOs tend to be
more individuated, i.e., [+definite], [+human], and [+individual], whereas PPs may be POSSESSOR of
any kinds. With dar and otorgar neither variant exclusively denotes caused possession since nonPOSSESSOR IOs and PPs are common. This is because dar and otorgar allow metaphorical extensions
(Goldberg 1995) in both constructions (exx. 2a/b), and dar is often used to form “light predicates” in
PDCs (ex. 4). IOs for dar and otorgar are also restricted to be [+definite], whereas PPs can be
[±definite]. Finally, with enviar, both constructions may denote caused possession, but in addition,
PDCs may denote caused motion. IOs here are also restricted to be [+definite], whereas PPs can be
[±definite]. In sum, definiteness plays a crucial role for IOs. This is in line with the fact that when the
non-theme argument is pronominal, the IO (clitic), which is definite by nature, is the only option (ex.
4). PPs are not subject to any constraint, thus, showing broader distributions.
Regarding Issue B, we found both PDCs and IODCs allow two ordering variants for the two
complements. For both constructions, a number of factors interact to determine the word order.
However, statically, grammatical weight (Wasow 2002) is the most crucial factor in the majority of
cases: Unless DO is heavier, the two complements are placed in the unmarked order, i.e., DO PP or
1. Dative Alternation
a. Juan envió una carta a María.
„John sent a letter to Mary.‟
b. Juan le
envió una carta a María.
John CL-dat.3sg sent a letter to Mary
„John sent Mary a letter.‟
(Prepositional Dative Construction: PDC)
(IO Dataive Construction: IODC)
2. Metaphorical Extensions
a. PDC
Valdano dice que la intervención de las cadenas de television dio al futbol español “un salto de
posibilidades económicas inpensables hace apenas un año….”
„Valdano says that the intervention of the television networks gave Spanish football “a jump in the
economic possibilities unthinkable just a year ago…” ‟
(Proceso, 15/12/1996: “La mejor liga del mundo”)
En fin, yo tengo treinta y ocho y todavía disimulo bastante bien – le dio un par de sorbos a su vaso,
limpiándose los labios con una servilleta de lino.
„Anyway, I am thirty eight, and I still hide it pretty well – he took (gave) a couple of sips from his
glass, cleaning his lips with a linen napkin.‟ (En busca de Klingsor by Jorge Volve, 1999)
3. Light predicates
Juan S. Millán, secretario general del CEN del PRI, dio lectura a los puntos de acuerdo a que se
llegaron, después de las exposiciones de Fernando Liescas, Herberto Barrera y Héctor Hugo
Lokivares Ventura:…
„Juan S. Millán, general secretary of the CEN of the PRI, read (gave reading to) the points of
agreement they reached, after the expositions by Fernando Liescas, Herberto Barrera, and Héctor Hugo
Lokisvares Ventura: …‟
(Excélsior, 08/06/1996 : “Condena Oñate a Quienes Optan por la Inestabilidad Para Debilitar el
4. Pronominal IO
a. * Juan envió una carta a ella/a él.
John sent a letter to her/to him
b. Juan le
envió una carta (a ella/a él).
John CL-dat.3sg sent a letter (to her/to him)
„John sent him/her a letter.‟
Bleam, Tonia. 2001 “Properties of the double object constructions in Spanish.” In R. Nuñez-Cedeño,
L. López, and R. Cameron (eds.), A Romance Perspective of Language Knowledge and Use.
Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 233-252.
Cuervo, María C. 2003. Datives at Large. PhD thesis, MIT.
Goldberg, Adele. 1995. Constructions. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Rappaport Hovav, Malka and Beth Levin. 2008. “The English Dative Alternation: A Case for Verb
Sensitivity.” Journal of Linguistics 44, 129-167.
Wasow, Thomas. 2002. Postverbal Behavior. Stanford: CSLI Publications.